Friday, 27 November 2009

Active Geology

This one is based on the 5th realm, 'Active Geology'. It's all about seamounts, vents and seeps on the ocean floor. It was the vents especially that I focused on, as they spew out clouds of minerals and heat the water to around 350 degrees C which I thought was pretty emotive and intense... As these vents are often found in water up to 5 miles deep, they are very hard to find and explore - the main method of finding them is by trailing probes from surface vessels, which I've represented through the lines entering the circles.
This illustration, like all the others, would look really good screenprinted which is why I've made many of the images, or elements of them two-tone so that if I get time it would be an easy job to do. A combination of screenprinted and normal printing techniques maybe? If I had managed to get into the project as early as I should have, I would've had time now to experiment. It's a shame, but a lesson I had to learn the hard way I guess.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Some more work..... For this one, I went back to 'The Human Edges'. Using the same photographs as I used in the last one, but trying to continue in this pared-back simplified style I've been working in. I'm actually really pleased with this one, as it says everything I want it to say quite clearly and without any of the fuss or over-complication of the last version.

I liked the idea of the image hanging right off the edge of the page, so I went with that for the finished illustration as shown below.

After producing the last two images I started to feel more confident working in this style, and the work began to flow. Here's one that I was happy with first go - 'The Microscopic'. It's all about how the bacteria that live in our oceans consume much of the Carbon Dioxide that humanity produces, and produce much of the oxygen that we breathe through photosynthesis. As these bacteria need certain minerals to live, scientists have been experimenting enriching the water by adding minerals such as iron in order to provide ideal conditions for the bacteria to thrive and consume more Carbon Dioxide. The brown circles in the image are scap iron, and I made the area of 'microbes' blue to represent the oxygen that they are producing. It's simple but I think it works. The words represent what is stated in the Baseline Report as being the major unknowns for each realm - so for The Human Edges the two major unknowns are distribution and abundance of species, for the Microscopic it's knowing what species of microbes there are. I like having the words in the images as they give them a graphic feel, and the typewriter font makes them look like they were written in a lab by a researcher - I have to be careful to not overdo it with the typewriter though, as if there is too much of it in there it will just look cliche.

As I was happy with this version I didn't want to risk over-complicating it, so I've left it for now and moved on - below is a first version of 'The Ice Oceans'.

This is based on the idea of the ice oceans being un-explored, upside down worlds full of strange sights. There is a huge mountain range under the sea and ice of the Arctic, and a recent expedition found schools of cod grazing upside down on algae growing on the bottom of ice floes. This upside down reference really inspired this image, and like the last one I'm pretty happy with this first version. The map is a chart of Iceberg 'migration' routes, and it gives the image an informative feel.
I feel that the images I've managed to produce over these last couple of days have worked really well, and this style is something I would definitely like to work and improve on. Finally I feel like I've reached a good point in the project, and the work is beginning to come of it's own rather than being forced and I think this is reflected in the images. They work well on their own, but more importantly they work well as a set, and I can see them working well in a booklet or something similar. As it's quite late in the day I think I'm just going to follow my gut instincts on this one, I would like more time to explore other ways of presenting the images but I like making books and I'm confident that I will be able to produce something of a high standard with the time I have left. Hopefully, this will prove to be the case!

Tuesday, 24 November 2009


I'm getting more and more aware of the fact that I've got less than a month left before hand-in, so I need to get some good inspiration and crack on.
Luckily, the last couple of days have been good for work. I started by looking back through my visual research and got really inspired, especially after looking at the work of Christiana Couciero. I love her graphic style of illustration, and her use of shape and colour.

So feeling inspired, I managed to produce some work....

Above are the first two versions for 'Light and Dark Central Waters'. I think the light and dark circles are fairly self explanatory, and the line represents a divide as the actual divide between the light and dark zones is quite sudden. It was important to me to show how our atmosphere is dependent on the microbes in the top layers of the oceans producing oxygen, and I've tried to show this through the altered top half of the top circle and the blue area at the top, which I much prefer to the circle photo of the sky (the third circle makes it look too much like a circle). There's also a map of some ocean currents in there to give it another point of reference, and to contrast the photography with some hand-drawn elements. A more finished version below.

Monday, 23 November 2009

I got the films back from my photography session t'other day at the beach, and also from the London trip. Here are a few examples, taken on my Lomo and my pinhole camera....

I've also been doing some drawings and taking some tracings from maps to use in my images if I need them. I dont mind tracing in this sort of situation as I want the drawings to be as exact as possible, and look like the real thing. I've drawn some freehand, and the results are just never quite as accurate as I'd like. Once all the drawings had been done on the tracing paper, the layering effect the pages in my pad created was quite special and this is something that I could definitely build on. As you turned the pages, it was like peeling away the layers of information, and with every turn the information became less muddled. I love using tracing paper as a material, and this effect makes it the perfect paper for me to use for my finished product, which I think will be a booklet...

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Having gone back to the beginning of my project, I've re-read the baseline report of the CoML and picked up on something that I missed first time round. Basically, in order to help the researchers focus on specific areas of the oceans to research, the oceans have been divided up into six areas based on the difficulty and the technology required to explore them.

"... we choose realms of the human edges, hidden boundaries, light and dark central waters, active geology, ice, and the microscopic."

Within each of these 'realms' the scientists go on to examine what is known, unknown and unknowable. I'm pretty devastated that I didn't pick up on this earlier as it could provide me with the perfect material to illustrate. One illustration for each realm, packaged into a nice booklet to be sold as a commemorative object next year when the findings of the census are published? Or made into posters for an exhibition to do wih the census? Or just an art book/posters for people who have an interest in both design and science?
Anyway, here's a couple of attempts at 'The Human Edges' - the first;

and the most recent;

The human edges are essentially the coastlines of the worlds seas and oceans, and the factors affecting this realm are pretty much all human. From the abundance of readily available food that first drew humans to the coast, to the fact that by 2020 two-thirds of all humans are predicted to live within 50km of the sea and our pollution entering the seas affects which species are able to live near the shore, we have always had a huge affect on our coastlines and I've tried to reflect this in this illustration. Without an explanation it's quite hard to tell what the image is saying but I like that - it is supposed to be abstract after all. I like the flow to the second one, but it's just elements put together on a page, and it's not really saying anything to me or jumping out at me as something I really like.

Friday, 20 November 2009

I spent a while at the beach today just taking photos to use in my illustrations. Here's some of the good ones from my digital camera - I'll have to wait a few days for my films to be processed before I can post any of the others, which I'm hoping will be amazing! Fingers crossed...

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Flip Reverse It

I've gone back to the beginning and looked at my initial research again, and done a bit more. It turns out that as the oceans, our weather, our climate and the air we breathe are all so interlinked, scientists now consider the worlds oceans as essentially part of our atmosphere. This has really inspired me as I can bring these other factors into my illustrations. Also thinking about what Marcus and Joel said in my tutorial, my illustrations are going to be abstract combinations of these elements. This works as ocean exploration is all about dealing with the unknown and the unimaginable, so this could be anything... I'm also going to go back to the way of working that I'm most comfortable in, which is combining photography with drawing and printing. I don't know how I allowed myself to get so sidetracked and down on the project, but I'm sure that this should be the turning point that I need to boost my confidence in my abilities.

Here's a quick thing from today based on the idea of atmosphere, I don't like it but it's a direction that I'm more happy with and one that WILL be productive for me.

As I've been looking at a lot of infographics since the tutorial, here's a book which is amazing;

And here's a quote from the book that informed todays illustration and I'm sure will inform my future work. It also makes sense of the images I put together earlier in the project.

As well as circles being "impossible to achieve by the human hand" they also feel like the only 'natural', pure and untouched shape. A circle also represents something being whole and complete, so if a circle is fractured, broken or has pieces missing, it could represent something that is unknown or incomplete.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Visual Complexity

A very nice infographics website recommended to me by a friend today -

And another one for good measure - History Shots. I love the image below, it's called 'Visualising the Bible', it's by Chris Harrison and it's pretty amazing. As it says on the website;
"Named one of the best science images of 2008 by the National Geographic News, Visualizing the Bible "... brings to light the interconnected nature of one of the world's most familiar books." The bar graph that runs along the bottom represents all of the chapters in the Bible. Books alternate in color between white and light gray. The length of each bar denotes the number of verses in the chapter. Each of the 63,779 cross references found in the Bible is depicted by a single arc - the color corresponds to the distance between the two chapters, creating a rainbow-like effect."

Tuesday, 17 November 2009


Todays crit was painful.... Being told by Marcus Oakley that my drawings looked like clipart was the biggest slap in the face but I can see what he means. At the time I was hoping that the ground would just swallow me up to be honest but I guess it was kind of what I needed to stir me out of this self-induced illustration coma that I'm in at the moment. I'm pretty down on the whole thing, but I'm going to try and use todays embarressment to galvanize me into working my arse off over the next few weeks, taking on board what Marcus and Joel said and producing some good work that I'm proud to put in my portfolio. But for the rest of today, I'm going to allow myself one little sulk.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Another route that I've been exploring is imagery based on how some of the data in the CoML baseline Report is presented -

This diagram shows how catches of big fish have declined over the years. I love the simple squares and colours, and the way its overlayed onto the map. As a simple piece of scientific data I think it's quite beautiful. So anyway, I've been experimenting with my own images of this data.

I don't know if it will go anywhere, but I kind of like it. I'm so confused with this project now, I've basically dug a hole for myself and I'm really struggling to find a way into and even enjoy the project which is a shame as it's about a subject that I love. I don't really know how to rescue it at the moment, hopefully I will be able to!

Thursday, 12 November 2009

So here are the ingredients needed for a home embossing session -

The idea is that you do your drawing with the pen, shake the powder over the ink while it's still wet, and then melt and set the powder onto the paper with the heat tool (which is hilarious, the packaging and design of it really make it look like something a bit more 'feminine'). It sounds so simple, but it has it drawbacks - its not possible to get a pen with clear ink, the closest I could get was light blue which is fine on blue paper but not on anything else; when you're melting the powder its really easy to burn it so it ends up drying all bubbly and rough; the powder itself is quite shiny so not only is it embossed it looks glittery; its hard to get a really fine line out of the pen and the ink dries quite quickly so you have to emboss as you draw which is just hassle. Results posted below.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Marcus Oakley

The lecture that Marcus Oakley gave us today was really informative, and a good insight into the illustration industry. One of the main things I picked up up from what he was saying, and I'm sure this isn't the same for everyone but I get the impression a lot of his clients are people he knew already, especially the work he's done for Pointer. This highlighted to me the importance of networking to acquire clients, as people you meet may one day be running a company that might need some illustrations... His work is completely different from mine, but I like it, especially his patterns and his 3d stuff.

I found it really inspiring listening to him talking about his influences, and what informs his practice as much of what he was saying I recognised in myself, and I'm hoping that this will spur me on to make some really good images for this project as to be honest, I'm still struggling.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Todays talk from Salvatore Rubbino was great, and it was fascinating to see how the images were made, from initial sketch to finished article and it was really good to see the process he went through to produce his book 'A Walk In New York'. The two main things I picked up from what he said were - draw everything, and draw from memory as well. Two things I must do more often.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

I've been looking into the possibilities regarding embossing and spot varnishing etc, and in order to see what the illustrations might look like it seems the best thing for me to do would be to get a home embossing kit. It looks to be quite cheap, but as is the case with most home-crafts it will probably look quite shonky... Anyway it would enable me to emboss a line drawing so it's got to be worth a go. My idea at the moment would be something like this -

Basically, I'm thinking of having the one bold drawing or image (need to experiment more) in the middle of the image, and all the shadowy shapes around it embossed or spot varnished or even laser-cut out of the paper so that the viewer has to really look at the image to see that they're there. I dont normally do line drawings so this is a bit of a departure for me, but I don't feel like I'm getting anywhere with the direction I'm going at the moment so I'll give this a go and hopefully it will lead to something good.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

I did get some good advice from todays tutorial , especially the website that was recommended to me - the Atlas Obscura. Other than that, I just need to start researching into what's possible when it comes to disguising elements of my illustrations through embossing or die cutting etc, i.e. if it's possible or not to emboss or spot varnish a line drawing for example. Once I know what I can actually do, then I can really start making work and this will hopefully allow me to get into my project as for some reason this year I've struggled. I don't know if this is because of the change of course, or the long break over the summer but I just can't get into it. I'm sure I'll turn it around, but I am conscious of the ticking clock...